ECC faces labor woes with police officers' union

 
 
Updated 8/24/2018 5:26 PM
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  • Elgin Community College's police officers' union says the college is engaging in unfair labor practice by not negotiating a contract in "good faith" and withholding raises.

      Elgin Community College's police officers' union says the college is engaging in unfair labor practice by not negotiating a contract in "good faith" and withholding raises. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Elgin Community College's police officers' union has filed complaints against the college claiming unfair labor practices.

A representative of Metropolitan Alliance of Police Chapter 735 -- the union representing ECC police officers -- said the college is not negotiating in good faith. The department's 14 sworn officers have been working without a contract since they unionized in 2016.

"The law says they are supposed to maintain the status quo" during contract negotiations, said union board member Joseph Lullo, an ECC officer. "The last year the school gave all nonbargaining employees a 2.1 percent raise, but they excluded the police officers."

Police officers last received a 3.75 percent raise July 1, 2015. The union is seeking all officers performing the same function to be paid equally, which would cost about $200,000, Lullo said.

The ECC board approved the 2.1 percent wage increase for nonunion employees for fiscal year 2018 after freezing wages the previous fiscal year, spokeswoman Toya Webb said.

"The status quo during a contract hiatus is to not provide wage increases for members of the bargaining unit," Webb said. "To meet the police officers' demands based on their proposal, it would have cost the college $461,692 for a three-year contract, during the height of the state budget crisis."

All ECC officers previously served with state police or suburban police departments, including Addison, Aurora, Elgin, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates and St. Charles.

The union board and ECC entered negotiations in March 2017. Since then, there have been 14 bargaining sessions and 27 tentative agreements on contract matters. The parties are in disagreement over nine outstanding items related to wages and benefits. A federal mediation session is scheduled Monday, said Terry Creamer, ECC outside counsel.

The union has filed a second unfair labor practice complaint against ECC for withholding cost of living increases to police officers. These latest complaints come on the heels of a recent decision by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board against ECC on another matter.

The union filed a grievance Dec. 14, 2016, on behalf of a police officer who said her rights were violated because she was not allowed to meet with a union representative during an investigative interview on a conduct complaint made against her.

On Dec. 9, 2016, the officer was interviewed by a deputy chief and then-police Chief Emad Eassa, who retired April 21, 2017.

The interview came after a community member complained that the officer pushed him in the men's room of a campus building after the two had a verbal altercation, Webb said.

Eassa denied the officer's request to have a union representative present because he was unaware the union had been certified three days before, Webb said.

"At no time did the college intentionally violate the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act," Webb said. "The college has a total of four unions on campus and we equally respect the rights of each of them."

The labor board found ECC in violation of Illinois' labor law and required the college to publicly post a notice to all employees saying so. The notice was posted Aug. 7 in the campus police department. There was no other punitive action taken against ECC.

Creamer said before the labor board hearing on that matter that officials made several attempts to settle the case with the union through mediation and added that college officials offered to post a labor violation notice themselves.

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